The Prince George Spruce Kings are finally getting set to challenge a team in the "Castle" as tonight they will entertain the Dawson Creek Rage from the NAHL. This will be the second time in as many years they will play The Rage in an exhibition game. Last year they played the Rage to a tie in Dawson Creek before picking up a win at home in the final preseason game. This time around the two teams will play in a back-to-back home-and-home series that will be crucial for both teams in finalizing their rosters.
The Spruce Kings currently have 26 players on the roster and will have a few more games before they have to hand in the official 21 man roster. Tonight a few veterans who have already solidified their spots will sit in the press box and watch the action, but most will continue to fight for their jobs. One of the players sitting in the press box tonight will be 6'3" defenceman Sam Waterfield who recently had knee surgery. Waterfield came to the Spruce Kings late last season after playing with the Dawson Creek Rage. This would have marked the first time that Waterfield faced his old friends and team, but unfortunately he is not eligible to return until October 8th.
Three local products will take to the ice for Prince George in a bit of a homecoming. Marcus Beesley is one of three goaltenders who is on the roster, but of course, only two spots are open. Beesley, who is the only goaltender on the roster who didn't play with the team last year, will likely see some ice tonight and tomorrow to show the coaching staff why they should keep him around. Sean Landrey committed to the Spruce Kings after being affiliated with his home town team last year. Another recent signing and a Cariboo Cougars alumni from last year, Jared Crossan will also be in the press box watching the action from a little farther away then he would like to. Aside from the two already mentioned, Jujhar Khaira is another player that won't be donning the crown tonight. Instead Khaira is preparing to don the Canadian Maple Leaf after being invited to try out for Team Canada West and the upcoming 2011 World Junior A Challenge.
It's not known at the moment which players will and will not suit up tonight for Prince George Spruce Kings. That though, is the beautiful thing about preseason hockey. You go to the rink to see what the future holds for you as a fan. You get to see all sorts of line combinations, some that will work, and some you won't see again. You get to see the team as a whole, how they work together, how they answer to the pressure of an in game situation and all the new faces on the roster. Not to mention, you get to see all the siblings this team currently has on the roster (the McHaffie's, the Fitzgeralds and the Chore's).
This home and home series with The Dawson Creek Rage has unofficially been dubbed "The Battle of The North". It's always fun when you get to watch a team that you don't normally get to see, but then add the fact that the unofficial title of "Best Team in The North" is up for grabs, and this game brings bragging rights. Then of course, we go back to having the chance to see a young, new team hit the ice in search of chemistry and identity; all of a sudden this becomes a must see. Both games will start at 7pm, with tonight being at home and tomorrow being played at the Rage's arena, the EnCana Events Centre in Dawson Creek. Unfortunately neither game will be broadcast this weekend, but do keep an eye on the Spruce Kings twitter feed for all the updates and analysis.
Once again, tonight the puck drops at 7pm at the Coliseum. Head to the Castle and support your new look Prince George Spruce Kings. Let's start this 40th Anniversary season off right.
Hope to see you at the rink,